Host the perfect summer garden party: part 2

In our last blog post Aldourie Castle gave its 10 top tips on how to host the perfect summer garden party. We focused on all the key elements to create the ultimate outdoor party. As always we came back to the guests’ experience. This is something Aldourie as an exclusive use castle on Loch Ness Scotland considers above everything else. Here we complete our list and wish you luck and fun in hosting your own outdoor (or indoor) perfect summer garden party.

Choose the ‘right’ music

The aim of the perfect summer garden party is to relax and excite your guests from the moment they arrive. Background music is the key to achieving this. Music exudes ambiance and you’re best to be prepared by creating a playlist well before the party day. That way you can perfect the list, adding or removing songs to suit. If your garden party starts early and finishes late you may want to create different moods for different times. For instance, you can create an energy to the start of your party with upbeat, soft rock or popular songs and opt for more mellow or folky tunes for winding down and reminiscing.

summer garden party castle accommodation Scotland

Create designated spaces for your perfect summer garden party

A garden party should have flow and tell a story as much as it should create a functional backcloth to your celebrations and fun. With this in mind, think about creating ‘zones’ that guests can frequent throughout the event.

Ideas include a cosy, intimate space for couples curling up with a glass of wine or close friends chatting into the evening; a partying space for dancing; and a play area for children and any lawn games – bubbles, hula hoops and croquet are just a few suggestions.

Aldourie’s game of choice: a spot of croquet on the Castle’s front lawn would be a must; for the more energetic guests, perhaps a Segway ride…

Set the mood with lighting

Milestone Birthdays in a Scottish Castle

The perfect summer garden party needs to consider the small details, such as lighting both during the day and evening. Take on board these tips to keep guests happy.

Make sure there’s lounging spaces placed in both shade and sunny spots – the latter to cater for sun worshipers hoping to top up their tans. Be sure that your designated dining space isn’t in direct sunlight. As dusk falls bring out the candles and lanterns for that all-important ambiance.

Prioritise comfort for your guests

Making your guests feel comfortable and at home is your top priority for the perfect summer garden party. As mentioned above if the sun is shining bright all day shaded areas are a must. And remember, a good host provides anything and everything so make sure you’ve got plenty of sun cream to go around – especially for the children. Your guests will appreciate this considerate touch.summer garden party Scottish Castle Vacations

You may want to install some heaters if your garden party is set to go on until late and, of course, provide a basket of blankets for that essential garden party cosiness and warmth. As darkness descends, for any remaining guests lighting a small campfire is the ultimate treat.

Have a back-up plan

You’ve designed the perfect summer garden party with all the fixtures and fittings, but the weather decides to rain on your parade. Don’t let it! Back up plans guarantee a calm, collected host. So, should wet weather prevail, have a gazebo and umbrellas at the ready. If you have a very large garden space you may even consider having a small marquee on standby.

Aldourie’s perfect summer garden party back-up plan: bring everyone inside into the interlinking public rooms.  We would let guests enjoy the inside of the Castle with its impressive views over Loch Ness and the Highlands.


10 tips for hosting the perfect summer garden party: part 1

As summer begins it’s time to start thinking of entertaining al fresco. Whether your garden space is small and intimate or large and lavish, these top tips make the ideal guide to hosting the perfect summer garden party. Aldourie Castle loves to throw a good outdoor party and we’ve highlighted some personal Castle choices throughout.

Consider your guest list

When it comes to deciding on your garden party guests list it’s important to think about what will create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. At Aldourie we specialise in hosting the ideal house party of up to 30 guests taking exclusive use of the Castle and grounds. Social gatherings such as birthday celebrations, anniversary dinners or reunions are mainly made up of close family and friends. Therefore, we suggest this mix of guests as the ideal for your perfect summer garden party. Invite too many guests and you lose the intimate atmosphere. Likewise, invite distant relatives or friends of friends and you risk your party lacking familiarity and easy conversation.Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

Have a theme to focus on

The process of choosing a theme for your perfect summer garden party can be fun. Involve the children in sharing ideas too so they feel they’re involved in the party from the start. Having a well-chosen theme gives focus to the social gathering and makes it easier to plan the rest of the party set up. Ideas you could consider are nautical/beach, contemporary, Nordic or vintage.

Aldourie Castle Estate’s chosen theme: this would have to be the Scottish Highlands; scattering tartan blankets and cushions and offering a well-crafted whisky cocktail.

Tablescape – create a beautiful dining setting

Think ‘tablescape’ over party decorations. Food and drink are more often than not the focus of any party, indoor or outdoor, so make the most of showing these off to their full advantage. The table, whether a sit-down meal or buffet setting, should be the focal point of your party scene. All the better if it sits against the backdrop of a stunning natural landscape. Also, by making an effort with your artistic table arrangements you relinquish the hassle of having to decorate each and every nook and cranny of your party space. Less is more, as the story goes…Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

Delicious food and drink for your perfect summer garden party

You can host a winning summer garden party that will indulge your guests and be the talking point at social gatherings for months to come. How can you do this? By serving delicious, well-thought out food and drink throughout the day and into the evening. If you plan ahead with your food and drink choices you can create the perfect al fresco dining experience.

The key is to opt for dishes that complement the season, using fresh ingredients and local produce. On hot days be sure to have jugs brimming with ice cold juices, Pimms and cocktails. On warm days keep the wine flowing and have a welcome drink ready for all – champagne, anyone? If there are families on the guest list then remember to feature some fun, child-friendly food and drinks too.

Aldourie’s dishes: a Loch Ness inspired fish course (possibly salmon to cater for the majority of guests) and Scotland’s own colourful, summery cranachan for dessert. Delicious!

Create pretty flower displays

Nothing helps to create the perfect summer garden party more than a beautiful display of fresh flowers. If you’re lucky enough to have a colourful garden complete with all the blooms of the season then why not pick some for your table centerpiece? Depending on your choice of party theme opt for either formal or wild flowers. The scent of the florals will also add to the guest experience of your perfect garden party so remember this when choosing what to place where; evoking people’s senses when they least expect it adds a touch of magic to your showcase.Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

Aldourie’s flower choice: a selection of blooms freshly picked that morning from our wild flower garden. This would be a perfect tribute to the wild Scottish Highlands landscape that surrounds the 500 acre Estate.

Keep your eyes peeled for our second installment of our 10 top tips to the perfect summer garden party. Why not book Aldourie if you’re looking to hold a milestone birthday in a castle or enjoy a family reunion castle stay. We specialise in exclusive family holidays on Loch Ness in this private use Castle and whilst you’re here why not let us host your perfect castle garden party over summer. Email info@aldouriecastle.co.uk or visit our castle hospitality webpages for more information.

READ PART 2 of our SUMMER GARDEN PARTY blog post here for more outdoor party inspiration.


Experience the Black Isle during an exclusive use stay in Scotland

The Black Isle is a peninsula in the Scottish Highlands, just north of Inverness. It’s a wonderful place to explore with family, friends or a loved one during an exclusive use stay in Scotland at Aldourie Castle. The Black Isle is surrounded by water on three sides. To the north is the Cromarty Firth, to the south the Beauly Firth and the Moray Firth marks its east. The Isle also has rivers to its west; water, water, everywhere. You can imagine the views to be had during a day of walking there.

Wildlife, woodland and water

This famous spot in the magnificent Highlands is home to nature and history in equal measure. So, there is lots more to see besides the stunning views that come with its many walks. The Black Isle is well known for its rich farmland and showcases neatly ploughed, lush green fields over-spilling with crops. This itself is enough to draw large numbers of tourists annually to the Black Isle Show, the largest agricultural show in the north.exclusive use stay in Scotland

Aside from farm animals, the Black Isle is home to a variety of Scottish wildlife. During your exclusive use stay in Scotland on Loch Ness, you may think Aldourie Estate is brimming with nature. But just wait till you get here! Watch the dolphins swimming and playing in the water or catch a glimpse of a deer or two wandering through shrubbery on land. The water is also home to otters and seals whilst some days the sky can be filled with soaring osprey.

The green landscapes are reinforced by the sprays of endless trees. Amongst the flora and fauna look for the towering Scots Pine, just one of three conifers native to the UK. Through all this woodland you can see Ben Nevis on a clear day.

An historic Highlands paradise

The Black Isle is also steeped in history with its fair share of castles, cairns, a cathedral and a host of museums. There are few holiday destinations that can offer such a large number of historical sites amongst such natural beauty. The Scottish Highlands always comes up trumps for this. The self-contained peninsula is home to numerous historical plots from different eras from Medieval to Georgian.

Kirkmichael Church has long been neglected and left to ruin but recently it has reopened to visitors, complete with a lovely cemetery to wander around. Guided tours will inform you of its local and associated families’ history. Redcastle was, until recently, one of the oldest inhabited houses in Scotland, with evidential links to William the Lion in 1179. This ruins creates a haunting skyline silhouette worth gazing at and gives some perspective to your exclusive use stay in Scotland in a luxury private Castle. Cromarty Courthouse, on the Isle’s museums, houses an excellent detailed exhibition including an audio tour for keen tourists.exclusive use stay in Scotland

Fabulous walking in the Black Isle

Just like the vast culture of the Black Isle there is a walk for everyone on this charming Highlands peninsula. This is in terms of both the length and the topography of walk. From short circular woodland ambles to long distance coastal trails, you can find something to suit you or your group. Take a look at the walking map and guide page of the Black Isle website which includes a detailed map ideal for planning your walking routes.

A highly challenging walk:
A favoured walk by exclusive use group stays is the 147-mile John O’Groats Trail. It conveniently starts at Inverness, home to Aldourie Castle, and ends at the pretty civil parish of Alness. This stunning but serious coastal walk is set in two stages and features a mix of shorelines, cliff tops and back lanes as well as the hallmark highland footpaths.

An easy walk:
During their exclusive use stay in Scotland many previous guests of Aldourie have enjoyed rambling through the country lanes of Rosemarkie. This is an enchanting village at the bottom of the aptly named Fairy Glen. Stop for a romantic picnic at the falls partway through the delightful wooded glen. Learn about its quaint intimate history as you stop at the spring then leisurely stroll past the pockets of floral parades.exclusive use stay in Scotland

An interesting walk:
McFarquhar’s Bed and Cave is a ‘there and back’ style walk combining coastal highlights and geology, with some climbing both ways. Groups of friends who’ve stayed at Aldourie Castle have enjoyed this walk over the years. This is because it captures a bit of everything but is great for the non-rambler who appreciates scenery. Expect to see seals and dolphins around the Moray Firth and historic gems in Cromarty village.

Towns ‘a must’ to visit in the Black Isle

Here is just a selection of places worth a visit, each with their own distinct heritage.

Fortrose is the largest town laying on the southern coast of the Black Isle. Architectural loves will appreciate its ornate Victorian buildings amongst its older history – Fortrose Cathedral was built in 1250 A.D. Follow the narrow twisting roads to its bonny harbour and secluded beach for quality time in a true Scottish Highlands town.

Avoch is a traditional and tranquil fishing village on the east coast with a long heritage. Fishing for herring and sprats in the Inverness and Beauly Firth provided much of the local living for the village which was to last over 100 years. Finally, admire the old town, passing the fisherman’s dock and up Henrietta Street to see the row of low white-walled fisher cottages.

A day out in the Highlands during your exclusive use stay in Scotland is not complete without a little whisky on the side. Muir of Ord, home to the Glen Ord Distillery, features a thriving and dynamic community. The historical village boasts three churches and is a pleasant place to stop for lunch and a spot of shopping.exclusive use stay in Scotland

Look out for our blog post coming soon on the varied towns and villages of the Black Isle, which delve much deeper into those mentioned above.

The beauty of the Black Isle is yet another gem that the great Scottish Highlands has to offer both its locals and tourists. Exclusive use stays in Scotland become even more spectacular and exciting with wonderful places like this to visit. Make the very most of your luxury holiday on the shores of fabled Loch Ness by getting out and about off the Aldourie Estate for a day or two to explore the famous Black Isle and its much loved countryside, coast and villages.


The joy of soup in winter – Scottish castle dining

Minus temperature outside? Feeling under the weather? All done in? Or tummy-rumbling hungry? The best cure for any of the above has to be, without a doubt, a bowl of hot soup. Aldourie’s chef loves the castle and grounds during autumn and winter for Scottish castle dining. The colours on the estate change along with the weather and guests’ appetites also change. Gone are the desires for fresh salads and cool, refreshing desserts. All they really want – like most of us during the wintry months – are succulent meats coated in delicious sauces, warming soups and comforting puddings – the more custard the better!

Our Chef has some delightful recipes he brings out year-after-year as well as, new dishes to impress the gourmet connoisseur. One in particular at the castle we all love for its simplicity, homeliness and heat is the ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’. It’s devoured time and time again by guests and once an exclusive-use party has sampled this particular version, they usually request it numerous times throughout their stay at Aldourie.  Here, the castle’s private chef would like to share his favoured, yet simple, autumnal dish with you, so you too can enjoy it at home during the cold, festive months ahead.

Warming winter recipe: Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

2 tbsp olive oil sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ medium chilli
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
2 celery sticks
1 medium onion, chopped
pinch cumin seeds
½ tsp chilli powder
pinch smoked paprika
2 pints veg/chicken stock
splash cream

 

Chop all the vegetables and sweat in a pan with olive oil. Add the stock and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add splash of cream.

Other traditional Scottish soups to try:

A soup is tastier if it is rich in ingredients and some of these Scottish traditional dishes are also particularly rich in proteins and vitamins.

Scottish Castle Dining

Bonfire Warmer Soup
Scotch Broth
Cullen Skink
Potato-Leek-Mushroom Soup
Scottish Oxtail Soup
Golden Vegetable Soup
Highland Chicken Soup
Haricot Bean Soup

Where is best to enjoy a bowl of soup at Aldourie?

Exclusive use house parties of guests dine in numerous rooms in the Castle depending on the time of day. A mid-morning mug of soup might be best enjoyed looking out onto Loch Ness from the cosy yet classical surroundings of the Laird’s Room. This room is also the closest room to the kitchen for quick access to refills!

The grand main hall would be great for a soup feast, ladle and all. Gather your friends round the large long oak table for a clan-like supper in true Scottish castle dining. The cosy dining room is perfectly designed for eating in, so try here for an intimate candlelit dinner beginning with a soup dish starter. The parkland views will help you relax and conversation will flow for hours as you enjoy four delicious courses cooked by our Highlands castle’s personal chef for that ultimate Scottish castle dining experience.Scottish Castle Dining

When is the best time for Scottish castle dining?

You cannot beat the feeling of a good soup that is both rich in taste and nutritious, trickling down your throat, when you’re either peckish, tired or cold. At Aldourie castle, you could easily be all three of these at the same time if you choose to enjoy one of the many outdoor activities on the Highlands estate during the autumn/winter season.

Boat ride – during a stint on Loch Ness hunting for Nessie or simply absorbing the spectacular scenery, private groups of guests are always ready to be fed. Out on the exposed Loch you have the wind rushing in your face and all that water around makes you hungry for soup.

Segway ride – the Aldourie parkland is made up of 500 acres of woods, parks, walks, gardens and more. Segway rides let you see more of the grounds than you would on foot. During the autumn and winter months you use up so much energy and will return to the Scottish castle searching for something warming like a bowl of soup.Scottish Castle Dining

Archery or clay pigeon shooting – these are popular outdoor activity sports at Aldourie and our chef likes nothing more than rewarding a hard afternoon’s play with one of his delicious soup recipes.

Look out for more recipes from Aldourie Castle by signing up to our newsletter through our blog web page. In the meantime, enjoy our ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’ in the comfort of your own home this winter. And…Don’t forget to post us a photo on Facebook or Twitter saying which room you enjoyed eating it in and what outdoor activity inspired you to make it.


Revitalised gardens and grounds heighten exclusive use experience

Aldourie Castle and Estate underwent some renovations during 2017. We are always looking to add to the exclusive use experience of our private guests and beauty of the Castle and Estate. We coated the exterior of the Castle with a limewash harl (we’ll cover this more in the next post), revitalised the old walled gardens and carried out further landscaping around the Castle. However, behind reviving this 17th Century exclusive use Estate, there’s a lot more meaning than initially meets the eye.

The gardens design team

The plan was to develop the gardens to create a fitting, high quality setting for the Castle. We employed a head gardener Duncan Hall, who is passionate about innovative landscaping for historic settings. Duncan and his dedicated team have been thrilled to work alongside landscape architect, garden designer and writer Tom Stuart-Smith, an inspirational leader in his field. Aldourie Castle Estate feels privileged to have Tom designing the revised estate including the four main garden areas (detailed below).exclusive use experience

Formal Garden: on the Castle’s doorstep

The main Castle Garden (to the west) creates a formal setting for Aldourie whilst hinting at playful associations with the property. The turret-inspired topiary trees and historic references like the planned fortress-inspired bastions are good examples of this. The already impressive space combines order with fun to heighten the exclusive use experience. The idea is for the garden to be used and enjoyed by private guests, despite its formal layout.

Walled Garden and Glasshouses: for ‘living off the Estate’

This garden has a rugged feel in comparison to the Castle garden and has been restored to a very high standard. It features attractive dry walls made with a local stone. As guests walk into it tey definitely feel as though it belongs in the highlands. Its central area is primarily for vegetable and fruit production (including high value crops and soft fruit). These are used to supply the castle kitchen as well as the other Wildland properties. Do you remember the 18th century glasshouses being restored in 2016? Now they also grow fruit and veg and are open for exclusive use guests to wander through.

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Arboretum: historic discoveries through hard work

This has been a major renovation. The gardening team unearthed a fine tree collection dating back to the 19th Century. The Castle is now committed to nurturing them all. All design elements have been carefully planned, for example, the winding paths and interweaving plant patches at the foot trees. These will, in effect, guide Castle guests from one garden to another allowing no aspect of the arboretum to go undiscovered. The burial ground is also a significant historical feature. Tidying this area has helped to preserve its ornamentation and archaeological relevance.

Parkland: keeping it green

There are further plans afoot to create a landscape of wild meadow and Highland cattle. But for now, the parkland starts to rejuvenate with new trees. Guests will notice that an Estate railing clearly separates the Castle setting from the wider park.exclusive use experience

Head Gardener, Duncan, comments on the parkland design; “The new trees have breathed some life into the park, which is the first part of the Estate that guests will experience as they enter the main drive. Enticing views of different parts of the estate are revealed encouraging guests to explore, as well as stunning views across the wider landscape of Loch Ness.”

Focus is on the exclusive use experience

The landscape of Aldourie Castle and Estate is of outstanding scenic value. It’s therefore vital that the design and gardening work serves to enhance its beauty. It forms an archetypal Scottish Baronial scene highly visible from the northern shores of Loch Ness. One of the key reasons for revitalising the Castle and grounds was to compound the feeling, during an exclusive use experience, of staying in such a historically valued, spectacular location.

The initial warm welcome at the Castle now extends to the entirety of the 500 acre Estate. Guests are now encouraged to really discover the gardens, to explore and play, and feel the heritage beneath their feet. Regular pruning of tree branches in the walled garden will offer glimpses of the estate and wider landscape. This will entice exclusive use guests to wander further afield.exclusive use experience

The ‘farm to table’ aspect of this particular garden will also transcend to the guests’ experience. This will allow them the opportunity to pick their own fruit and veg for the Castle’s chef to cook that day. The idea is to reinforce the exclusive use experience at every opportunity. As a result, exploring the beauty and history of Aldourie Estate becomes an integral part of their stay.

Look out for our next instalment of the Revitalisation of Aldourie Castle & Estate. For more information on exclusive use of Aldourie please visit our Private Hire pages or contact the main office through our online contact form.


Are exclusive use stays good for your wellbeing?

What do people want from an exclusive use holiday? Why would a group of guests choose to stay in a property that’s there just for their enjoyment? Why is it more exciting to celebrate with your own family and friends without having strangers celebrating around you? Isn’t the answer obvious? Not exactly, because exclusivity might mean something different to each person. Here we explore a few of the reasons why guests opt for exclusive use stays in a property, the reasons they might not even know themselves. We also throw in a few examples of where Aldourie Castle estate has placed the utmost importance on exclusive use.

Intimate surroundings encourage important family time

The world is changing and with it so are people’s perceptions and priorities. Mental health awareness, placing importance on more family time and being ‘in the moment’ are all ways in which individuals in society are striving for the ultimate wellbeing. Why is it so important we find that elusive work-life balance? To be truly happy we need to be around those we love and cherish.  But in order to enjoy the company of loved ones doesn’t there have to be a degree of ‘luxury’, of comfort, that only money can buy? And if that intimacy can be found inside a world of natural beauty and fresh air combined with regal splendour and relaxation, then that surely will make anyone feel good.exclusive use stays

Exclusive use stays guarantee privacy and space

Everyone enjoys the privacy of being at home. Although the whole point of going on holiday is to be away from home, when you choose an exclusive use holiday it’s likely because you want the ‘home from home’ feeling. Aldourie Castle Estate is continually striving to make your exclusive experience even more exclusive. Take, for example, our brand new private bathroom for Nursery Bedroom that has taken the place of a shared kitchen for exclusive use guests staying in the Nursery suite. There are already numerous public rooms in the Castle perfect for idle conversation, dining, drinking and relaxing with your clan. However, as individuals, we need to always be able to retreat to our own personal sanctuary. During exclusive use stays at Aldourie Castle you can be confident of the right balance of shared and private space.

We all like to feel special sometimes

Who doesn’t want to feel special from time to time? When you know you’re getting a pretty unique experience in a one-of-a-kind property with its own personal heritage, it will undoubtedly make you feel special. For instance, exclusive use stays in a private castle are perfect for anniversaries. For a one-off celebration with your loved one it makes sense for the location to be just as unique.

So, what makes our exclusive use guests feel special? At Aldourie, for some it’s waking up to a view over Loch Ness every morning, indulging in a home-cooked Scottish breakfast then taking a steaming mug of coffee down to the treehouse for half an hour with a ‘classic’ from the Castle library. For others it’s grabbing a perfect-fit pair of Hunters wellies from the cloakroom and wandering the peaceful woodland alone for a sense of well-being. Or bathing next to a huge Georgian window overlooking the parkland with no other person in sight. It might be a game of football with the children before dinner in a never-ending parkland meant for nobody but you. Exclusivity; yes it’s indulgent, but it’s also an opportunity for self-preservation.exclusive use stays

Exclusive use stays are comforting in every sense

Have you ever been on holiday and things went wrong? You suitcase doesn’t appear on the conveyor belt. Your luxury villa you booked online resembles nothing of its description and photographs; not so luxury at all. Your credit card won’t work abroad or your bag gets stolen en- route to the hotel. Your nerves start to jangle; things aren’t as they should be, and you’re in a place you don’t know.

Exclusivity gives you an instant peace of mind; at Aldourie, in our private Castle, should you have any problems, each member of staff is there to help you and only you at any time. You can start to relax because you don’t have to get anyone on your side or wait until someone is available to assist you. With exclusive use an entourage, if you like, can be at your side to assist you from the moment you arrive until the moment you depart. And there’s definitely comfort in that.

Keeping up with the Joneses is a bygone era

Remember curtain twitching? You don’t tend to get much of that these days. The idea of uniqueness is so much more appealing. Who wants to have the same, but better, these days? When it comes to experiences, whether for yourself alone or with family and friends, the more ‘out of this world’ it is, the more in touch with reality you feel. There’s so much to see and do in life so why not go for something different.

When you and your clan arrive at Aldourie, one of the most charming and welcoming exclusive use properties in Scotland, you truly feel as though you’re the only ones to have ever stepped through the door. Wouldn’t you prefer to make incredible memories in a place that feels bound in history over a modern hotel with characterless facilities and a simple seasonal menu. At Aldourie you can taste the earth on which the Castle sits, pick your own fruit and veg and ask Chef to rustle up something tasty for dinner. You make your own experiences here rather than sharing in a tried and tested package that seems to suit most people.exclusive use stays

Exclusive use stays in the Scottish Highlands

The combination of a private holiday property in the spectacular Scottish Highlands might just send you into wellbeing overload. With hundreds of miles of beautiful natural landscapes so wild and otherworldly looking you have nowhere to be but in the moment. Here, inside Aldourie, you can experience the joys of a luxury home offering you privacy, absolute comfort and everything you could possibly need at your fingertips. Outside, on the Castle’s doorstep, not only is there a private 500 acre wilderness for you to enjoy, but the wider Highlands boasting some of the most peaceful scenery known to man. A day of walking or cycling in the Cairngorms National Park could very well leave you speechless. Hopefully, however, it will leave you with enough breath to reminisce over your shared exclusive use experience with family and friends for years to come.


How to enjoy the great outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

There’s lots to enjoy on a Highland estate on the banks of Loch Ness. No need to always hire outdoor activity companies when nature provides more than enough to entertain, teach and experience. Children adventure, explore and play during luxury family holidays giving you time to yourselves to relax. Couples can escape into their own romantic world for an afternoon. And families can spend quality time together using the grounds as they wish and discovering small, simple pleasures outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Wildlife spotting

Let’s start with the simple things nature has to offer: wildlife in its natural habitat. The Aldourie Estate is home to a wide variety of Scottish Highlands’ wildlife. Make your own fun acting like the animals you seek to find. For instance, there are dozens of pretty little roe deer all across the Aldourie Estate. They are particularly delicate creatures and make little sound. If you’re quiet enough, your footsteps won’t distract them and you could end up getting up close to these beautiful animals. Look out for them running across the parkland at dusk or looking for tasty brambles in pairs at the edge of the woods. Look up to the sky for your next character; you may just see osprey soaring over the open grounds or woodpeckers climbing to the tree tops in the heart of the woodland. The red squirrel home to the highlands is a real sight for sore eyes. It may come out to play if you happen to stumble upon its dwelling or stay in one place long enough. If you take a keen interest in Scottish wildlife then you may wish to explore some wildlife spotting locations outside Aldourie Estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Hide and Seek in the arboretum

Does anything sound more exciting than that? This outdoor activity is ideal to play in all weathers in any season here at Aldourie Castle. Who needs a garden maze when you have acres of foliage and tall oaks to hide behind? Your seeker should give you all at least a minute to set off on foot to your desired hiding location. Then, once you’re past the clearing the (outdoor) world is your oyster. Hide and seek outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate is exciting; for one thing, if it rains it’s even more difficult to be found.  If you’re staying over Halloween why not double the excitement by looking for hiding spots in the old family graveyard. During the winter months it’s bound snow at some point in the Highlands. Why not wait for a snowfall then venture off to the Castle ground’s arboretum to crunch your way through the undergrowth. Don’t forget to cover up any footprints!

Play make –believe in the tree house

The spectacular tree house at Aldourie blends synonymous with its surrounding environment. You can pass it and not know it’s there. It was built into the thick of the trees on the outskirts of the woods on the verge of Loch Ness. The impressively designed tree house is perfectly positioned for light and shelter and capturing fantastic views. Here you can bring your camera, hide from the rain or bring a good book or a pal or two. Absorb nature’s peaceful sounds and the fantastical scenery of the distant wild Highland hills. Use your imagination and pretend your captain of a great ship. Bring a pair of binoculars with you and look out to sea (or even more exciting; try to spot Nessie out on Loch Ness!).outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Read a book of fairy tales in the formal gardens

Family house parties thrive at Aldourie because of all the experiences to appreciate within unique and unforgettable settings. Curl up with your little one on a bench in the pretty Castle gardens. Then read them their favourite stories as delightful floral scents fragrance the air around you. Fairy tales lend themselves easily to the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate, which itself is full of adventure and magic. Just another example of how to have outdoor fun for children in the Scottish Highlands.

Get close to nature in the parkland

We’ve so many ideas for you and your young family to take advantage of on the 500 acre Estate. Springtime daffodils make for pretty photographs. During this happy season toddlers love chasing the bees from flower to flower and looking for ladybirds in the grass. Children can also clamber onto the small old bridge and look down on the small stream. Watching out for tiny fish amongst the rockeries and pebbles is a sure way of keeping their interest in the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.

Beach walks on Loch Ness

Strolling along Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate allows for a relaxing break in your day and offers a little gentle exercise. Let a fresh water mist on a calming breeze accompany your walk. The beach is great for varied company whether a family fun day or a romantic moonlit stroll. Or maybe you’d like some timeout on your own to reclaim your thoughts before your business meeting during a luxury corporate stay in the Castle. Take your shoes and socks off and have a splash about on Loch Ness’s southern shoreline; surely one of the most liberating ways to enjoy the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

The reason you book an exclusive use stay at Aldourie Castle is up to you. You may wish to hire the Castle to host a family house party or celebrate a special birthday of a close friend. But the large private Scottish estate is always there for you to enjoy at your leisure. For availability of our private hire property in Scotland please call 01463 751309 and speak to the hospitality manager. Our team at Aldourie will be happy to chat through the requirements of your exclusive luxury stay on Loch Ness.


Hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds

The Highland Games are events held in spring and summer in Scotland and a long standing tradition especially in the Scottish Highlands. They are a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture. Exclusive use guests who stay here have enjoyed taking part in their own Highland Games in castle grounds. Guests enjoy various activities and events even bringing their own kilts and growing a beard especially for the occasion! Family and friends house parties at Aldourie are the perfect opportunity for holding such events. You set yourselves up into teams – or, indeed clans – and play from dawn until dusk.

There are no rules necessarily on how to format your Highland Games in castle grounds. However, it’s good to have a little idea of what you are doing so we suggest working with our favoured supplier In Your Element to help you host the events and get the most fun out of your experience. Aldourie is a private Castle on Loch Ness so you can imagine what a spectacular backdrop it becomes for the Highland Games.Highland Games in castle grounds

Caber toss – great to start off your Games:

How do you achieve this event?
A long log is stood upright. It is then hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically holding the smaller end in his/her hands. The idea is to run forward attempting to toss it in the air so that it turns end over end with the upper (larger) end striking the ground first. The smaller end that was originally held by the competitor then hits the ground upright.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Cabers chosen by the Highland Games event company may vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance. These all add up to make things difficult for a successful toss. That is why holding Highland Games in castle grounds is ideal; the acres of space gives you freedom to really give it all you’ve got!

How is the event judged?
Competitors are judged on how closely their caber reaches ideal 12 o’clock position on an imaginary clock. It is measured relative to the direction of the run. If successful, the athlete is said to have turned the caber.

Stone put – a traditional sport:

How do you achieve this event?
This event is similar to its modern-day version, shot put, which you’ll have seen in the Olympic Games. Instead of a steel shot, however, a large stone of variable weight is often used. There are also some differences from the Olympic shot put in terms of techniques permitted. There are two versions: the “Braemar Stone”, which uses a 20–26 lb stone for men (13–18 lb for women), does not allow any run up to the toeboard or “trig”. In other words it’s a standing put. The “Open Stone” uses a 16–22 lb stone for men (or 8–12 lb for women) and the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style. However, the stone must be put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until it is released. Aldourie Castle’s supplier will advise you of the most effective techniques to use.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Using a stone put heightens the feeling of tradition when you and your clan carry out Highland Games in castle grounds.  Aldourie particularly has a beautiful, wild terrain of woods and hills beyond its immediate landscaped grounds. Imagine this as your backdrop and see how far it inspires you to throw.

Scottish hammer throw – calls for true clan members:

How do you achieve this event?
Again, this event is similar to the hammer throw of today albeit with some subtle differences. In the Scottish Highlands event, a round metal ball (weighing 16 or 22 lb for men or 12 or 16 lb for women) is attached to the end of a shaft. The shaft is around four feet long and made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic. In Your Element will have their preferred material with which to use for this event. Place your feet in a fixed position and whirl the hammer around your head before throwing it as far as possible over the shoulder.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
The area allocated for this event at Aldourie allows hammer throwers to wear specially designed footwear featuring flat blades. These dig into the turf so that you can keep your balance as the hammer is whirled about your head. This gives a great advantage allowing the competitor to increase the distance attainable in the throw. More chance of winning! Just another reason to hold your Highland Games in castle grounds.

Sheaf toss – a heavy-weight event:

How do you achieve this event?
A bundle of straw (known as the sheaf) that weighs around 9.1 kg for the men (and 4.5 kg for the women) is wrapped in a burlap bag. The event calls for it to be tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar, not unlike that used in pole vaulting.

Highland Games in castle grounds

How is the event judged?
This event is scored is similarly to the Weight Over The Bar. There is therefore significant debate among competitors as to how authentic a Highland event it is. Some argue that it actually belongs to the country fair event list, but nonetheless is a fabulous crowd pleaser.

Maide Leisg (Scots Gaelic meaning ‘Lazy Stick’):

How do you achieve this event?
This is different from any of the above events for its format and direct contact with another competitor. It is a real test of strength and carried out by two men sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressing against each other. Once seated, they hold a stick between their hands which they pull against each other until one of them is raised from the ground.

Date for your diary:
Are you interested in the history of the Highland Games and not simply the chance to partake in some Scottish culture and tradition? If so, you may wish to witness the oldest ‘Maide Leisg’ competition in the world, which takes place at the Carloway show and Highland Games on the Isle of Lewis. Maybe the only thing better than holding your own Highland Games in castle grounds.Highland Games in castle grounds

Music to accompany your Highland Games in castle grounds

For many Highland Games festival-goers, the most awaited and memorable of all is the massing of the pipe bands. This spectacular show is normally held in conjunction with the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. It’s an incredible display of as many as 20 or more pipe bands marching and playing together. It’s symbolic of true Scottish tradition and fellowship and a treat for the eyes and ears! The finale belts out a thunderous rendition of Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace, followed by other crowd-pleasing favourites. Imagine a parade of pipers marching through Aldourie Castle Estate. Wouldn’t that be the perfect finish to your Highland Games in castle grounds?

It may come as no surprise but it is the bagpipe music which has come to symbolise music at the Games and, indeed, in Scotland itself. Music at Highland Games festivals and events can also include a variety of bands including fiddles, harp circles and Celtic. However, most usually feature their fair share of bagpipe music throughout.

Other events for your Highland Games in castle grounds

You’ll require slightly more variety for modern-day Highland Games thrown by an exclusive use house party at Aldourie Castle. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to choose from and In Your Element will assist with all the formatting and the detail. However, get your juices flowing by considering any of the following: Highland Games in castle grounds

Clan tents selling/offering Scottish related food and drink – maybe have Aldourie Castle organise this for you and ask the Castle’s private chef to cook up some delicious Scottish cuisine you can enjoy straight from the tents.

Mock battles – again, the hospitality team at Aldourie can arrange this for you with a preferred supplier. If you’d like to know more about what this entails we‘ll be blogging about a Scottish mock battle in castle grounds in a later post.

Various vendors selling Scottish memorabilia – everything from Irn-Bru to the stuffed likeness of the Loch Ness Monster. Of course, this is your private Highland Games event performed for fun with family and friends as part of an exclusive use stay in a private castle. Why not let the kids be in charge of this, see what ideas they can come up with for giveaways or event prizes. It would definitely be a learning curve in Scottish culture and yet another reason to hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds.

For more information on exclusive use house parties and holidays please complete the contact form on our website found here.


Top 8 luxury self-catering holiday cottage requirements

We’ve devised a hopefully useful post, based on comments and testimonials left by previous Aldourie cottage guests. It’s a list of the top 8 requirements for a luxury self-catering holiday cottage. Maybe these will feature high up on your tick list when searching for your next cottage stay.

Scenic spot

When searching for the best location to experience a family holiday or stay with friends, scenery is key. An aesthetically pleasing setting helps to create a feeling of peace and calm during a short break. This is especially important because a cottage holiday or short break to some is ‘never long enough’ so settling in quickly is a must. We think there is nowhere more scenic than the tranquil waters of Loch Ness and the majestic Highlands beyond. Or acres of mysterious woodland full of adventure and play. These sought after settings are easily viewed from any window at Pier Cottage on the Aldourie Estate.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Your favourite people

A stay in a luxury self-catering holiday cottage is nothing if not enjoyed with the people you love to spend quality time with. Reading through the testimonials of previous cottage guests we discovered that many were anecdotes. Their personal experiences were based on situations with others; conversations, family jokes, old/new stories, trying new things together.

‘Laughter’ and its derivatives were words we came across a lot. How people felt when they were on holiday, the emotions they experienced, were all positive: happy, carefree, contented, calm. We all know the importance of being in the moment and mindfulness holidays are on people’s agenda for 2017. It seemed most enjoyed some ‘alone time’ or ‘their own company’ during their short break on Loch Ness, but actual holiday highlights included the company of others.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Pet-friendly cottage

Dog friendly cottages are a must in today’s world. It was estimated in 2016 that over 40% of households had one pet or more. A pet is part of the family and are a huge part of people’s lives. They can be the making of a ‘funny’ story simply by their impulsive antics and behaviour. We surmised that guests preferred to bring their pet to their Scottish cottage holiday rather than leaving them behind. Needless to say all four Aldourie cottages are dog-friendly cottages with ample garden space for them to roam around. The area of Loch Ness and the Highlands is full of walks, hikes and trails perfect for dog walking holidays.

Child-friendly cottage

There is many a holiday cottage that would appear to be child friendly but strangely is not. So – tip – when searching for cottage stays don’t get caught up in the showy visuals before checking the facts. We can’t imagine Aldourie without children roaming about the place, having fun. Children help adults lose their inhibitions too, simply by being carefree, being themselves. Reading comments in our guest book it was clear that a sense of fun and adventure was at the heart of a family holiday in the Highlands.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Private garden

One of the main pulls of a holiday cottage break, we found, is its home from home feel. People are possessive of space, and quite understandably. It gives you the freedom to be yourself and the opportunity to manipulate your surroundings to your own desires and needs. Personal outside space is just as important to cottage holidaymakers. Our previous guests have made the best memories outdoors: afternoon barbeques with friends, romantic evening drinks by moonlight and the kids playing with the dog in the garden. Privacy is also key to a peaceful holiday. All you have to do is look at Ivy Cottage’s idyllic country garden to see what we mean.

Character & original features

Character is something very close to people’s hearts, in various forms, but particularly in buildings. Families and friends who stay in a cottage that has been renovated into a luxury self-catering holiday cottage also want to appreciate the original features. They also like to see lots of wood – particularly if the cottage is in a rural setting. And why not? It makes everything so much more authentic. On the Aldourie Estate in the Highlands you don’t have to imagine real logs burning on open fires, cosy corners and characterful beams in every room.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Mod-cons & comfort for easy living

We also confirmed our suspicions that people want to feel ‘at home’ in a holiday cottage on Loch Ness. They want to feel as though they have everything they have at home, and more. Take, for example, that essential souped up coffee maker that makes every morning a Sunday morning. Or a huge American style fridge-freezer. They mean you can stock up, for the most relaxing and efficient luxury self-catering holiday cottage you’ll ever experience. We also discovered that groups and families who stayed at an Aldourie cottage preferred the comfort over aesthetic. So when it comes to lounging on the sofa or curling up in bed, priorities would be lots of soft cushions, high arms to snuggle into and a good mattress.

Close to culture and landmarks

Holiday cottage dwellers prefer to be in striking distance of at least a few well-known places of interest. Not to cut down on travel time; in fact, driving is seen as a highlight of many cottage holidays. It can evoke a real holiday feel to be so close to famous landmarks whilst to others it’s satisfying to feel like a ‘local’ in a holiday destination. Conveniently, Aldourie Estate and its four traditional cottages are close to tourist hot spots.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

The city of Inverness is a hive of culture as our recently posted guide to family attractions in Inverness explains. Fort Augustus is a scenic drive away, as is the famous Black Isle region. The Caledonian Canal is accessible from Loch Ness cottage stays and the southern shoreline is home to some impressive landmarks including Urquhart Castle.

It is very clear people expect certain things from a luxury self-catering holiday cottage.  But of course, every family and group have different requirements. Friends on a cycling holiday for instance would likely put scenery and terrain at the top of their list. Families may gravitate more towards a cottage with the latest appliances and an enclosed garden. Nonetheless, it was agreed by all our previous guests that an Aldourie cottage holiday was somewhat of a dream escape and everyone who’s ever left has wanted to return.

Our cottage calendar checker makes it easy to check dates for Aldourie cottages – take a peek at available dates here or call 01463 751309.


The best holiday cottage tours near Inverness

Aldourie Castle Estate is located just a few miles from the centre of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Its peaceful setting and convenient location make it the ideal place for enjoying best cottage holiday tours near Inverness.

The private Estate hosts numerous guests at any one time. For example, we might have a private house party of guests in the Castle, a family of four in Gate Lodge and a group of cycling friends at Pier Cottage. Each individual or group will have different expectations and ideas for their holiday on Loch Ness. Therefore, we decided to provide a generic guide to some of the best tours in Inverness. We also made sure to encompass the variety of day trips available.

It’s easy to take advantage of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. This is mainly because there are so many reputable tour operators providing an variety of tours across the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness. They operate only a few miles away in Inverness and this guide comprises a few carefully selected favourites.pier cottage Aldourie Estate best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Walking or cycling tours

One of the very first things our guests request is information on scenic walks and cycling routes around Loch Ness. Some like to do it alone, following a map or their noses and discovering as they go. However, others like a guide to show them the best places to walk and cycle for the most spectacular sights and views. If you are searching for the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness, be sure to include a cycling trip.

Happy Tours, among its many destination tours, offers a truly wonderful tour of the mesmerising and tourist destination Isle of Skye. Once you’ve been transported up the never-ending roads that weave in and around its stunning landscape, be prepared for some serious scenery that will literally take your breath away. Stop off at romantic glens, shimmering waterfalls, wild hilly terrain and historic landmarks with an atmosphere all of their own. This varied and beautiful Isle of Skye tour also includes a stop off in the traditional harbour town of Portree. Here you can refuel with a seafood lunch ready for more unforgettable views. These include the Cuillin Mountains, Old Man of Storr and the Kyle of Lochalsh.walkers in the Scottish Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Cycling tours offer freedom

For a chance to use your own bike opt for the Loch Ness cycling tour from Inverness. This is an ideal day out if you’ve booked a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Explore Loch Ness at your leisure with this independent one-day tour where you are completely in control of your time. You will have been issued a trusty map with set of directions at the starting point of Bellfield Park. From there, you are taken along a journey – and an incredible one at that – into miles of peaceful rural Scotland.

Experience the utter joy of viewing spectacular unspoiled scenery accompanied by no other sound than the crunching of your tyres. Weave along winding country roads intermittently slowing down to capture the essence of those quaint lost-in-time villages seeping character and layers of intriguing history.

Towards the end of your route, stop off in Dores, just around the corner from Aldourie Estate, perhaps for a café lunch or a bite at Dores Inn. From this spot simply enjoy your beautiful surroundings of majestic Highland hills and a glistening Loch Ness. Take a break from the seat with a stroll along Dores Beach’s shoreline. You’ll quickly realise the joy of a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Should you require them, you can hire a top brand bike and accessories from Bellfield Park hire shop. From Dores, you can either take the flat route adjacent to Loch Ness or head uphill to appreciate the unforgettable view across the famous water.Man Cycling in the Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Whisky distilleries & tastings

There are endless whisky tours available around the shire of Inverness. We chose this one because it combines two famous distilleries in an area that houses over half the distilleries in Scotland. And both are situated in entirely different settings so you get a feel for their uniqueness. To experience some of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness you must book at least one trip to a whisky distillery.

The Speyside Whisky Discovery Tour is run by the Hebridean Explorer. From Inverness enjoy the 1hr 15 minute drive towards the heart of the lush hills of Speyside before arriving at the traditional and authentic surroundings of the Macallan Distillery complete with nostalgic-looking signage and bouts of fog-like steam filling the air. Here you will experience their ‘Six Pillars’ tour culminating in a tasting of four specially selected malt whiskies, including their 12 year-old Sherry Oak and 18 year-old Fine Oak.

Afterwards, visit Aberlour village for lunch before heading to the ancient parish of Dufftown, in which sits Glenfiddich Distillery. Here, stone walled paths intercept white wash warehouses with grey domed roofs against a backdrop of thick green forest; a postcard worthy scene. You will take the ‘Explorer’ tour before tasting another four drams of signature malts.whisky tasting seet up Macallan Distillery best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Truly ‘taste’ the Highlands

Experiencing a whisky distillery tour makes you feel as though you’re tasting the true essence of the Scottish Highlands, both literally and metaphorically. It is designed to make you feel ‘at home’, as almost any place in Scotland is. From the moment you enter the door you are greeted by genuinely friendly staff and the passion each worker seems to have for their brand, the drink itself and the overall culture that whisky evokes. Your guide will appear to emit endless knowledge and obvious pride in the distillery. Breathe in the atmosphere of peaty, malty aromas of the distillery warehouses. Then finally, arrive in the immaculate, ordered setting of the tasting room and gift shop.

The entire process from start to finish is a history lesson and cultural experience in one. Whether it’s an hour long or a day trip, for that period you are transported to another world. You may well become a whisky convert (if not already a lover). Most importantly, you will always remember your last distillery tour, and look forward to the next.

If you get the bug why not book on some more whisky distillery tours for the rest of your short break, taking your pick of the crème of the crop in the scenic splendour of Speyside. A fan of the dram? Have a read about three other distillery suggestions in our place of interest blog post.

We look forward to posting our second installment of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. Look forward to details on wildlife and nature alongside boating and cultural tours around Inverness and Loch Ness.